Sunday, November 01, 2009

Prime Minister Launches Donate Life in Australia

The following speech was delivered by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the Donate Life Launch in Australia.

Prime Minister of Australia from The Lodge, Canberra

I acknowledge the First Australians on whose land we meet, and whose cultures we celebrate as among the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

Welcome to The Lodge - Therese and I are delighted to see you here this afternoon in support of such a good cause.

And one that's very close to my heart - literally.

DonateLife is about exactly that - donating life.

It's about promoting the cause of organ donation.

About getting people to talk about organ donation.

About getting families to talk about organ donation.

About getting as many people as possible to talk openly about their views, and their wishes.

That's what DonateLife Family and the DonateLife Network are all about.

Last week in Sydney, we saw the tragic death of a young Irish tourist after a street scuffle in Coogee.

Gearoid Walsh was just 23 years old.

He'd been in Australia for only five weeks when this senseless tragedy happened.

His mother flew from Ireland to be by her son's side last Wednesday.

On Thursday, his family made the terrible decision to switch off his life support.

And they also made the brave, generous, compassionate decision - to donate his organs so that others might live.

As Mrs Walsh said on Friday:

"In his death, Gearoid has helped six other Australians by being an organ donor."

My heart, and the heart of all Australians, goes out to the Walsh family at this difficult time.

And I thank them for their great grace and dignity, in acting in such a generous and forgiving spirit, to donate Gearoid's organs.

It's all too easy to take life for granted.

Too easy to take our health for granted, if we are fortunate to live without chronic disease.

We don't know what it is like to be hooked up to a machine that keeps you alive.

We don't realise how the simple things - kicking the footy around, going to school or even a short walk to the shops - can be an Everest to those whose bodies are failing them.

Or the constant fear, sadness and pain of watching your child's health deteriorate.

We don't know what it is like to hope that every time the phone rings, it is the call that could save your life.

Today, there are 1,700 Australians on our transplant waiting list today, waiting for that phone call.

The phone call that tells them that their chance for a life-saving transplant has arrived.

Some of you here today know that feeling all too well.

People like Liz Fowler.

Liz Fowler is a mother of two.

And she has lived with kidney disease for 20 years.

Liz is waiting for the call.

And has been for more than six years.

And she has two absolutely essential reasons for needing that call:

Her son, who is severely autistic and has been diagnosed with cancer;

Her daughter has won a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport. Liz wants to see her row in London at the Olympics.

Liz is one of 1,700 Australians waiting for a call.

Then there is Lachy Wallis, from my home town of Brisbane.

Lachy and his dad David, mum Lisa and little brother Mitchell, are here with us this afternoon.

Looking at Lachy today it is hard to believe that this young bloke was so sick at the beginning of the year.

When he was put on the transplant waiting list, his health was deteriorating so rapidly that Lisa and David did not know if he would survive until a suitable donor was found.

So dad was tested for his suitability as a living donor.

And a week before David was due to have a third of his liver removed, the call came.

A liver had become available.

Lisa and David went into shock.

It was far from a celebration.

The reality of the situation hit home - that young Lachy, who was very ill at this stage, was about to undergo a very long and very risky operation.

But on top of that, Lisa said, was the knowledge that the liver was available because someone had died.

And a family somewhere was grieving for a lost loved one.

Lachy and his family know the power of a donor's gift.

And once Lachy came out the other side of the operation, the Wallis family silently thanked the donor and allowed themselves to enjoy the pure happiness of that gift.

Now when people ask Lachy how he's feeling he replies "I've never felt better".

And he is having swimming lessons three times a week and he is trying to gain enough strength and weight to get back on the footy field.

We wish you luck mate and hope to see you flying down the wing very soon.

On average, people on the transplant list wait between six months and four years.

Two people die each week waiting for a transplant.

So far this year 189 generous Australians became organ donors, resulting in a new chance at life for 608 Australians.

To those Australian families who said yes to donation, we thank you for making the decision to give others a special and deeply personal gift.

One of those families is with us today - the Kennetts from Adelaide.

Their wife and mother Julie passed away from cancer last year.

Rob, Perri and Jane - we offer our deepest condolences for your loss.

But Julie was very clear about her wish to be an organ donor and had discussed it with her family.

Julie donated both corneas enabling two people to have the gift of sight.

I'm sure, like the Wallis family, that the recipients of Julie's corneas thanked her.

And thank her every day they wake up and open their eyes and see the world around them.

It is people like Liz, Lachy and the Kennetts who have inspired the Government's $151.1 million Organ Donation Reform Package.

This national reform program is spearheaded by the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority and is gaining momentum in communities around the country.

Today, I am pleased to launch the cornerstone of our reform agenda - The DonateLife Network.

This is a newly formed national network of organ and tissue donation agencies and specialist clinical staff.

The 300-strong team behind the DonateLife Network includes 91 new hospital-based medical directors and senior nursing staff in 75 hospitals around Australia.

And DonateLife Agency staff are in every state and territory.

The DonateLife Network is central to our efforts to increase Australia's rate of organ donation for transplantation.

But improving our donation rate doesn't fall on the shoulders of these dedicated medical professionals alone.

We all have to do our part.

Although 90 per cent of Australians support organ donation, the family consent rate is just 56 per cent.

Forty per cent of Australians don't realise that their family makes the final decision regarding organ donation.

We can increase the family consent rates by ensuring that our family knows our wishes and that we know theirs.

Talking is the key.

This is why we are gathered here today.

Because it is in our homes that we can make a difference.

It is in our lounge rooms and at our dinner tables that we can start the conversations that may end in saving a life.

Memorable discussions that will allow us to confidently make the decision - should we ever be asked - to give consent for a loved one's organs and tissue to be donated.

Confidence that comes from knowing the wishes of our loved ones.

And there are three simple words that will help us gain that confidence.



And discuss.

Discover the facts about organ and tissue donation.

Make an informed choice and decide to become an organ donor.

Discuss with family and friends, so that you know each other's wishes.

Therese and the kids and I have had that chat as a family.

And today I can announce that we have decided to become a DonateLife Family.

As a DonateLife Family, we have committed to discussing and upholding each other's wishes.

And we want to invite every Australian to join us.

Deciding to become an organ donor is not a decision to be taken lightly.

That is why I encourage all Australians to discover the facts on the new DonateLife website.

At, family and friends can find a range of materials, including a DonateLife Family pledge.

A simple tool that you can use to keep a record of each other's wishes.

The website also has Australian donor and recipient family stories, including those of the Kennett and Wallis families.

Their stories will encourage and inspire.

Australia is blessed to have highly skilled medical professionals.

We have a world class reputation for successful transplant outcomes.

Our surgeons know how precious donated organs are.

Anyone who has received a new organ knows how precious they are.

When you become a donor you don't just donate a kidney or a heart or a liver.

You donate a gift.

A second chance.

You donate life.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register

In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.

No comments: